Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Feature - Once Upon a Clockwork Tale

Welcome to day four of our four day author feature! Today, we talk to Matt Mitrovich, author of "The Enchanted Bean."

The Enchanted Bean - Matt Mitrovich

How do you reach a fabled land of giants without any magic beans? Build an airship, of course. A British adventurer takes to the skies seeking wealth and glory, instead he finds ancient gods ruling an oppressive flying kingdom. With the help of their allies, these former masters of men want to replant the World Tree and rebuild their war machines. To stop the sky from falling, our hero will have to do more than chop down a beanstalk.


Matt Mitrovich is a misplaced refugee from the multiverse. As he tries to find his home timeline, he passes the time by editing Alternate History Weekly Update, a group blog he founded dedicated to news and reviews on alternate history, and contributing as a blogger to new electronic version of the classic SF magazine, Amazing Stories. Sometimes he writes fiction about the worlds he visits, like "A Perfect Hell on Earth" from Jake's Monthly Anthology, which is based on a diary Matt found in a France torn apart by a century long war. Regrettably this earth requires you to be a "productive citizen," so Matt became an attorney to fulfill this social obligation while his search continues. He was lucky enough to take a native of this timeline as a wife and believes she is most beautiful when she becomes frustrated trying to convince him there is no such thing as parallel universes.

Find Matt at:

Twitter: @MattMitrovich, @ahwupdate

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure I love talking about myself. I lived in Chicago most of my life until after I got married to my beautiful wife Alana and now I live with her in Orland Park, a suburb to my favorite city. I have a B.S. in History from Bradley University, a JD from The John Marshall Law School and I have a license to practice law in the state of IL. Currently I work at a firm downtown, but things weren't always like that. After I graduated from law school I had trouble finding work and thus I had to do a lot of contract work just to get by. Feeling miserable about my work life, I turned to writing to ease my stress. I started Alternate History Weekly Update, a group blog about alternate history news and reviews, with the plan to blog at least once a week. During the one year anniversary I posted 10 times a week and kept that pace going for about two months. Now I am at a more sustainable five posts a week and it helps that I have an excellent pool of contributors and guest posters to pull from, which allows me to focus on other projects such as blogging for the relaunched Amazing Stories and my own fiction.

Blogging is great, but I always wanted to be an author ever since I read my first bad book and thought "I could do better than this." I wrote my first short story "Collapse Theory" in 2011, a thriller about an agent from a crosstime police force, but was never able to sell it to anyone. It still sits on my hard drive and I occasionally go back and revise it. Perhaps one day it will find a home. I had more success with later stories such as “A Perfect Hell on Earth”, a diary written by a Child Development Trooper fighting in a WWI that never ended, and "Revenants in Warfare", a fictional excerpt from a novel written in a world where zombies exist and are used as weapons. These stories, however, were in amateur publications and I only received a writing credit.

"The Enchanted Bean" is my first professional sale. I learned Echelon Press was accepting submissions for Once Upon a Clockwork Tale through my research for The Update. They were only looking for queries at the time and since I never wrote a query before I gave it a shot never thinking for a moment it would be accepted. Driving home from work one day I got an email that my story had been chosen for the anthology, but I didn't have a story ready to submit to them. Thankfully I had some time and working the hardest week of my life I managed to produce something I felt good about submitting. Luckily for me my editor liked it too.

Why did you choose Jack and the Beanstalk for your retelling?
Before writing "The Enchantd Bean" I saw a live showing of Rifftrax where they lampooned this 60s fantasy movie Jack the Giant Killer. It was a great show and the story remained stuck in my head. Turns out the film was based on a fairy tale as well, but distinct from Jack and the Beanstalk. A lot of elements from Jack the Giant Killer can be found in my story, but I focused on Jack and the Beanstalk because it is a better-known myth. Also it sort of makes sense that if you are trying to reach a city in the clouds and don't have any magic beans you would use an airship.

You created a fantastical steampunk world for your setting. Did you have plans to keep your story close to the original, or did you want to take it in a whole other direction from the beginning?
One of my favorite musicals is Into the Woods. It's a great drama featuring several Grimm fairy tale characters, including Jack, and ties all of their stories together. The second act, however, is where the musical really becomes remarkable when you see what happens after "happily ever after". For Jack, his ending is spoiled by the giantess coming down to Earth and seeking revenge against Jack from stealing from her and killing her husband. Sondheim and Lapine really captured something that always bugged me about the original fairy tale: Jack is kind of a jerk. So when I set out to write "The Enchanted Bean" I wanted to redeem Jack by creating a world where Jack actually had a good reason to do what he did, instead of just random robbery and murder.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your story?
Actually writing it. I'm not joking. Anytime people ask me for advice on writing I always disappoint them when I tell them they have to write. It seems silly but everyone is looking for a short cut and don't want to accept that there is nothing glamorous about writing. It can be hard work even at the best of times. It is especially hard when you are not "inspired", but to paraphrase Stephen King, writer's block only means you do not have anything interesting to say. There is no trick to writing. You just have to sit down and do it. Getting over that initial hump can be the hardest thing any writer has to do, but once you do, it is very rewarding.

What’s your favorite part of your story? Of the anthology?
I don't know if I have a favorite part per se. Everything about the anthology seems perfect to me because it represents the first time I could say I was a published author. The fact that I could do it with such talented writers like Ella, Robin and Kat just makes the experience even better.

You created a culture somewhat akin to the Morlocks and Eloi of The Time Machine (minus the cannibalism, thank you). What prompted that addition to the story?

Wow, I never thought of it that way. I am very familiar with The Time Machine. My Dad read it to me when I was a kid and I have a read it a couple of times myself since. I can tell you I didn't set out to reference The Time Machine in my story, but now that you see it I will call it a happy accident.

I guess you can see the similarities with two cultures living side by side with one growing lazy and decadent on the work of another. Perhaps if humans had never returned the thralls would have start eating the Great Master if they had several bad harvest, but knowing the personality of the thrall it would likely be the other way around.

You know another reviewer compared my writing to Jules Verne. Are there any other SF masters people want to compare me to? Haha.

If you had been on the expedition to the cloud city, do you think you would have joined with the downtrodden thralls or the Great Masters?

Of course the thralls. When I play a game with a moral system I am always good. I'm uncomfortable playing the bad guy. You ever play Sims? It was common for people who played the game to sometimes kill their sims by removing the ladder in the pool or starting a fire in the house and removing the door so they could never get out. I did some of those things once when a friend told me about it and afterwards never did it again. There was something sick about it and although I know its just a computer program it did not sit well with me that someone had created a game where you could torture something and watch it suffer.

Sorry for going so dark, but yeah, I would tear down the Home of the Great Master with my own bare hands if I had too.

What plans do you have for the future?  

I have a new short story coming out soon in Forbidden Future, a time travel anthology from the good folks at
The Masquerade Crew. The story is called "Road Trip" and follows the adventure of four teens driving to a college party until they take an unexpected detour through time. I am also working on a new short story called "Haunted Places". I don't like to talk to much about unfinished stories, but I might change this into a script for a full cast audio drama. There is also that elusive novel that continues to bounce around in my mind, but that could be a few years in the making.

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